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After 3 Pedestrian Deaths, IDOT Ignores Beach Park’s Pleas for Safety Improvements

The intersection of Yorkhouse Road and Sheridan, where a man was fatally struck on Monday, has a bus stop (left) but no sidewalks or crosswalks. Image: Google Street View

City officials in north-suburban Beach Park deserve credit for working to create safer conditions for pedestrians on Sheridan Road in the facing of grinding obstructionism from the Illinois Department of Transportation. The state, which has jurisdiction over the five-lane highway, is refusing to lift a finger to improve safety, despite the fact there have been four pedestrian crashes on Sheridan within the Village over the last 15 months, three of them fatal.

According to a Chicago Tribune report, Beach Park leaders have repeatedly requested better lighting, a pedestrian-activated east-west crossing signal, and other safety infrastructure but have gotten no response from IDOT. The state has even ignored requests from the village for permits so that locals can make the improvements themselves.

Most recently, on Monday at 8:43 p.m. a pick-up truck driver fatally struck a 54-year old man who was crossing Sheridan north of Yorkhouse Road..

[Although I appreciate the reporter’s efforts to bring us this story, it must be noted that the article mentions that two of the victims were wearing “dark” and/or “non-contrasting” clothing, which is victim blaming. There’s no law against walking in dark clothing and pedestrians, like drivers, should be able to wear normal street clothes without being endangered. If a driver can’t brake in time to avoid killing a person in the roadway, it generally means they’re going too fast, aren’t paying sufficient attention, the street design and infrastructure is unsafe, or there's some combination of the three factors.]

Back in November, Beach Park officials tried to get IDOT to take action after another man was struck by two different drivers while crossing a mile north at Beach Road and Sheridan, an intersection that has no street lighting.

Beach Park had been trying to improve the lighting on a two-mile stretch of Sheridan ever since another pedestrian was killed on Sheridan in October 2015. A statement from the village on November 2016 noted that plans had been officially submitted to IDOT for a signalized pedestrian crosswalk on Sheridan.

"My frustration, our frustration as a village is that all of the projects are being held up by IDOT,” village administrator Jon Kindseth told the Tribune this week. “We have a private development for a gas station back in October of 2014 and the plans still aren't approved. We submitted plans for improvement in July of last year and have heard nothing. Just give me a response, just give me something.” He added that IDOT has ignored requests for safety improvements for years, so the state budget crisis is no excuse for their inaction.

Kindseth noted that the Beach/Sheridan intersection has sidewalks and several business, but no crosswalks. At Yorkhouse/Sheridan there aren’t even sidewalks, even though there’s a bus stop at the intersection.

The Beach Park leaders have contacted their representatives in Springfield, as well as the governor’s office, about IDOT’s inaction, but there’s been no change.

"We had submitted to IDOT in July of last year, in advance of both of these incidents, plans for pedestrian facilities down both sides of Sheridan Road, along with a signalized crosswalk," Kindseth told the Tribune. "To date, we still have not received any feedback on this permit." Asked about the delay, an IDOT spokeswoman gave a non-answer.

The Beach Park officials are so fed up with this situation that they're considering making the improvements without the necessary state permits and just paying any resulting fines. "It's gotten to that point," Kindseth said "It might be the only way to get something done. Let's make the improvements and get it over with. That's our goal."

The reasons for IDOT’s inaction are mysteriosu. Perhaps their resistance to the installation of a pedestrian-activated crossing signal is born out of their tendency to prioritize keeping traffic flowing over the safety of vulnerable road users.

One thing’s for sure. If the state shamefully continues to ignore Beach Park’s pleas for pedestrian improvements, the next time a person is fatally struck on Sheridan Road in the village, IDOT officials will have blood on their hands.

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